A tennis grip is how you hold the racquet, and different types of tennis grips are used for various shots.
The first step to tennis success is understanding how to hold the racket for each stroke. There are numerous ways to hold your racket for each shot you attempt, so it’s critical to learn which shots are possible with each grip.
The grip is critical in changing the angle of the racket face organically when you strike the ball. If you are a beginner, this will assist you in learning the many shots available. If you’ve been playing for a while and are an intermediate player, this may help you figure out some improvements you can make to your game. This article will teach beginners and advanced players the simple steps they may take to acquire new grips and apply them to different strokes. Feel free to skip ahead to the topic of your choice.
- Grip History
- Grip Fundamentals
- Grip Types
- Grip Selection
- Grip Change
- Grip Of The Pros
- Grip Size
- Find Your Grip Size
- Final Thoughts
1. Grip History
Because grass courts are the quickest and provide the lowest bounce of any surface type, the continental grip is great for quickly scooping up balls that bounce well below the waist. On the other hand, Wood racquets were the gold standard through the 1970s, and their flexible frames and smaller head sizes didn’t provide much power. As a result, players could control the ball with good technique and limited topspin, indicating that the continental grip was adequate. Meanwhile, as the sport developed, it got more competitive, and players’ fitness regimes reached new heights. The introduction of spin-friendly polyester tennis strings in the 1990s enabled players to swing faster and generate more spin, allowing them to control power.
Finally, a shift away from grass courts as the dominant medium and advancements in the racquet and string technology resulted in innovation in the way players held their racquets. The eastern forehand grip was the first to appear, making it easier to generate topspin and ushering in a shift toward more baseline play. It had been around since the 1920s, but it wasn’t popular until Bjorn Borg’s success in the 1970s, which helped it become mainstream.
The semi-western grip gained popularity in the 1980s, with players such as Andrea Agassi employing the grip and playing almost entirely from the baseline. Still, it didn’t stop there as players experimented with the western grip and, eventually, the rare Hawaiian grip. The continental grip remains an integral part of the modern game player’s repertoire. Still, more extreme grips that shift the player’s hand deeper under the racquet handle have largely replaced it for groundstrokes.
2. Grip Fundamentals
To understand the many strokes, you must first learn how to grip a tennis racket. First, the individual must find the two key features on their hand that will aid in setting up the right grip. The knuckle at your index finger and your heel pad are the two key landmarks on the palm side of your hand.
The handle of a tennis racquet is octagonal in shape, with eight sides known as bevels. The bevels provide a reference point for various grip types as well as a comfortable shape to hold the racquet.
The Grips Octagonal Shape
The handle of a tennis racquet isn’t squared because it would be awkward to hold, nor is it exactly round because that wouldn’t provide enough friction to grip. Instead, it has eight sides known as bevels. The bevels on the bottom of the racquet handle are numbered 1-8, with #1 being the top bevel when the racquet blade is perpendicular to the floor. They are numbered counter-clockwise for right-handed players and clockwise for left-handed players. As a result, if you’re a right-handed player who rotates the racquet counter-clockwise, the next bevel that faces up is #2. As a left-handed player, the same would be true if you rotated it clockwise.
3. Grip Types
The continental grip was dominant in the early days of the sport. Wooden racquets with natural gut strings were the norm. Until 1974, three of the world’s most prestigious championships, including Wimbledon, the Australian Open, and the US Open, were played on grass.
This grip, also known as the Hammer grip, is used for serves, volleys, overheads, slices, and defensive shots. When using a Continental grip, place your index knuckle and heel pad on bevel #2. You’ve got it properly if your thumb and fingers form a V across the top of the handle.
- Advantages: The standard grip allows you to bend your wrist inward when performing serves and overheads naturally. This gives you more power while putting less strain on your arm. In addition, volleys benefit from an open racquet face, which provides both underspin and control. The Continental grip, which can be used for both forehand and backhand volleys, allows for quick shots at the net. In addition, it can defend against defensive shots such as drop shots and wide balls.
- Disadvantages: It is difficult to generate topspin with the Continental forehand. As a result, there is a lack of consistency.
Eastern Forehand Grip
The Eastern forehand grip is best suited for quick, flat shots. It can, however, be quickly switched from the Eastern forehand to the Continental grip for volleys. Shots with this grip will naturally be taken at waist level. Your index knuckle and heel pad should rest on bevel #3 to achieve a proper Eastern forehand grip. Next, place your hand flat against the strings and slide down to the handle to achieve an Eastern forehand.
- Advantages: One of the simplest grips to learn is a tennis forehand. It’s simple to switch from an Eastern forehand to a Continental grip. This is ideal for tennis players who like attacking the net. There is some topspin.
- Disadvantages: High balls are difficult to control. Insufficient control for long rallies.
Eastern Backhand Grip
The Eastern backhand grip gives spin and control for a one-handed backhand and may be made even more versatile by combining it with the Western forehand grip, which employs the same grip. Place your index knuckle and heel pad on bevel #1 for an Eastern backhand grip.
- Advantages: Gives you a lot of control and the ability to put spin on the ball. Switching from an Eastern backhand to a Continental grip is simple for players who enjoy playing at the net. It can also be used to deliver a kick serve.
- Disadvantages: Shots at shoulder height are difficult to hit.
The semi-Western forehand tennis grip is currently the most common among tennis pros. The semi-Western grip is used by several players who have been branded as power baseliners. The semi-Western forehand has a contact point between waist and shoulder height and is slightly further out in front of the body than the Eastern forehand. To find the semi-Western place your heel pad and index knuckle on bevel number four. Begin by holding the racquet throat with your non-dominant hand waist high and perpendicular to the ground, staring down at bevel number one. Then, working clockwise, rest your heel pad and index knuckle on bevel number four. Move counterclockwise to bevel number six for lefties.
- Advantages: Topspin and power are both provided. Increased safety and control. Allows for contact points for shots further in front of you.
- Disadvantages: Low balls are difficult to hit. In addition, it is more difficult to switch from a Semi-Western to a Continental grip for volleys.
This grip is a more extreme variation of the Semi-Western grip, and it is used to generate the most topspin. With the Western grip, you can make the most of slow-moving clay courts and deal with high ball bounces more easily—the spin helps keep it in. Because the racket face is slightly closed, this grip might be difficult for low balls, as can fast grip changes for volleys. Western grips can also be difficult for beginners to master. The Western grip demands the midway point on the handle, which is bevel #5, whether you play with your right or left hand.
- Advantages: Produces more topspin than any other tennis grip. Balls frequently bounce high and fast. Contact points are further ahead of you.
- Disadvantages: Low balls are extremely difficult to return. On faster surfaces, it is more difficult to use. In addition, it is more difficult to switch from a Western grip to an Eastern grip.
Double-Handed Backhand Grip
For the right hand, place the index knuckle on bevel two and the heel pad on bevel #1. The double-handed backhand grip is frequently used to provide stability and control. Because it is also easier to learn, most beginners begin by learning backhands with two hands. The two-handed backhand relies heavily on shoulder rotation and a proper swing to generate power.
- Advantages: It is less difficult to learn than a one-handed backhand. It gives you both stability and control. Excellent for low-angle shots. It has a lot of power and topspin.
- Disadvantages: It takes longer to set up. Also, limits a player’s reach, making wide shots more difficult.
4. Grip Selection
The tennis grips you use have a significant impact on your playing style. This is because the tennis grip determines how much spin and power you generate.
One grip is not superior to another, and you should choose a grip that complements your playing style. If you play aggressively, use a grip that allows you to hit through the ball and put more pace on it (think Federer). If you are a more consistent player, select a grip that allows you to put more spin on the ball (think Nadal).
A grip, like a racket or a playing style, should be based on what best suits your game and talents. Ultimately, everything comes down to personal preference and your level of achievement. Although each grip has advantages and disadvantages, as previously said, there is no right or wrong, better or worse grip. Everything is dependent on the situation and the type of player you are. If you’re not sure where to begin and want some tips on which grips to use, here are some suggestions:
- Forehand: Semi-Western
- Backhand: Eastern
- Serve, Volleys, Slice, etc.: Continental
Many players will find these grips ideal, but they are extremely simple to experiment with, so don’t limit yourself to these as your only option.
5. Grip Change
One factor that comes into play with the various types of grips is how quickly you can switch from one grip to another. This skill is essential for a player’s return of serve when time is limited. When using the two-handed backhand, a player should hold the forehand grip with their dominant hand and the racquet handle with their non-dominant hand, which should already be on the correct bevel for their backhand.
This allows a player to release their forehand grip and quickly rotate the racquet to find the continental grip to execute their backhand without changing the position of their non-dominant hand. If you’re using a one-handed backhand, it may be easier to hold the racquet at the throat with your non-dominant hand and quickly rotate the handle to find the correct grip.
6. Grip Of The Pros
As a tennis professional and coach, I understand my students’ irritation when constantly corrected or coached on the “ideal” tennis grip. Although it may appear redundant, grips in tennis are there for a reason. The goal is for each player to be able to perform the shot chosen with ease and precision. Most pros on tour today have slight variations of the five main tennis grips to suit their style of play. The selection of tennis grips is ultimately up to the player and what best matches their playing style.
Here’s Our Take On The Big Three And A Helpful Hint: We recommend avoiding using a player’s grip because they are on the pro tour. But, once again, what works for one player may not work for another, and some pros use unconventional grips that aren’t ideal for emulating.
- Roger Federer: Federer employs a somewhat modified eastern grip that falls between the typical eastern and semi-western forehand grips. Federer can hit through the ball and take the ball on the up with this grip, allowing him to step inside the court and dominate play against his opponents. Roger has the normal backhand grip, similar to the eastern backhand grip. When he slices the ball, he changes it somewhat. Federer can use this grip to hit his backhand with power and topspin. As you can see, the top knuckle (the index finger) is almost in line with the racket frame.
- Rafael Nadal: Rafael Nadal uses a hybrid grip that falls between a semi-western and a full-western, with the palm resting underneath the racket handle. As a result of his higher swing, his forehand allows the ball to pass the net with a high net clearance, producing more topspin. This suggests that Nadal hits the ball from underneath, resulting in topspin. Nadal employs a Continental Grip on his left hand and a Semi-Western grip on his right for his two-handed backhand. This way Nadal’s backhand can generate more topspin with the Semi-Western grip than the conventional Eastern grip.
- Novak Djokovic: His forehand grip is roughly two-thirds Western, leaning more toward Semi-Western than Western. Djokovic hits with incredible speed, and his depth is so consistent on his best days that he gives opponents few chances to strike. Novak serves with a semi-western grip. His right hand’s fingers and thumb form a V, while his left hand holds the racquet at its neck. This allows him to produce more power on his shots while keeping his arm curled tight for greater control. He uses a typical continental or western grip (for his dominant right hand) and an eastern grip when his non-dominant left hand comes onto the racquet to play the shot.
7. Grip Sizes
Now that we’ve covered the best ways to hold a tennis racket, we can talk about another crucial aspect of your tennis grip: grip size. Each racket is available in various grip sizes, and you must select the appropriate one. A too-small grip will require extra strength to keep the racket from spinning in your hand. On the other hand, a broad grip makes changing grips and adding spin to your shots difficult. In the long run, playing a racket with the wrong grip size might result in ailments like tennis elbow.
When shopping for a racquet, you’ll usually come across options with the following grip sizes:
8. Find Your Grip Size
There are two main methods for determining the grip size of a tennis racket:
- The Index Finger Method: This is arguably the most common way of evaluating grip size, and it’s especially handy if you’re testing out new tennis racquets in a store and have the opportunity to hold the grip. Simply grasp the racquet handle and look at the space between your fingers’ tips and your palm. The gap should be roughly the width of your index finger for the ideal grip size. We recommend trying a size larger and smaller once you’ve found a close match for your grip size. It’s a terrific technique to ensure you’re more comfortable with that grip than a smaller or larger one. However, this is only a suggestion, and your grip should be based almost completely on which grip size you find most comfortable.
- The Ruler Method: If you’re looking to buy a tennis racquet online and don’t have the opportunity to personally feel the grip, measuring the size of your hand with a tape measure or ruler is an excellent way to determine the size of your tennis grip. Simply open your hand with your fingers fully extended to measure your grip size with a ruler, and you’ll notice two wide lines going almost horizontally across the palm of your hand. Align the bottom lateral crease with the end of your ruler or measuring tape and measure to the tip of your ring finger.
What if I’m in between sizes?
It is quite normal for a player to be unable to identify the optimal grip size. If you’re “in-between” sizes and not growing, go with the smaller one and modify the thickness with an overgrip. It is simple to enhance grip size using an overgrip (which normally increases the size by 1/16 of an inch). A greater grip size, on the other hand, cannot be reduced (unless you manually shave the handle down, which can be extremely difficult).
What about finding the right grip size for juniors?
Choose the slightly larger grip size for juniors, as children may likely grow into a grip size that is a little too big for them at first.
After you’ve learned about grip styles and grip sizes, the last thing you should consider is the racket’s overgrip. Overgrips are cloth-like tapes that are put over the original grip of a tennis racket, providing tennis players with an extra layer of comfort, stability, and perspiration absorption.
There are dozens of different overgrip alternatives available from various manufacturers, but they all fall into three categories: dry, sticky, and all-around. Each has distinct advantages, and you should select the one that best suits your needs. Each of the three categories will be discussed in detail below.
- Dry Overgrips: These overgrips are ideal for players who sweat or play in humid conditions. They are often thinner and absorb moisture incredibly effectively, allowing you to keep superb control of your racket even when completely saturated in sweat. Unfortunately, I’ve cracked a few rackets after they slipped out of my grip after a serve. It’s a terrible sensation, and you don’t want to make that mistake again. On the other hand, these dry grips help avoid that, so you might want to try these if you tend to sweat while playing. The best dry grips I’d recommend are from Tourna Grip. The disadvantage of these grips is that, because they are thinner, they can become worn out quickly and may need to be replaced frequently. Try some Tacky or All-Around overgrips if that doesn’t work for you.
- Tacky Overgrips: On the other hand, Tacky overgrips have a very “sticky” sensation. They will, however, provide you with a firm grip on your racket at all times, and they are usually well cushioned and last longer than dry grips. I used tacky overgrips for the majority of my career because I liked the feeling they gave me. In addition, I’ve never had a problem with excessive sweating, so the tacky overgrips provided the perfect grip. Tourna Grip and Wilson are the best brands for tacky overgrips, in my opinion. I’ve used both in the past, and they’re both excellent. The Tourna Grip overgrip is the tackiest, but the Wilson overgrip is slightly less expensive. However, they are both good, and you can get them for a low price.
- All-Purpose Overgrips: Finally, you have the option of going with all-around overgrips. They are a hybrid of dry and tacky overgrips, as they begin tacky and transition to a drier grip after a few uses. If you’re not particularly fond of the two overgrips mentioned above, they’re a good option. Babolat’s Pro Tour overgrips are the best option for all-around overgrips because they have a tacky feel while also being very absorbent.
- Regripping: If you want to make your overall grip thicker, or if your old grip has become too dry, it may be time to replace or add an overgrip.
- Overgrips versus Replacement Grips: Tennis is a sport in which you run around the court a lot. So, it’s natural for your hands to sweat a lot. However, regular use and excessive sweat will cause the grip on your racket handle to wear out over time. So, you have two choices: overgrips or replacement grips.
The use of overgrips, like so many other aspects of tennis, is a matter of personal preference. Some people like them, while others don’t. So, let’s look at the two alternatives. First, overgrips are more of a quick fix. Some tennis players, for example, will take a new racket and immediately apply an overgrip to it to preserve the underlying grip. They are, however, intended to be used for a shorter period. Replacement grips are a better long-term solution than overgrips. I’ve seen some advanced players redo (either overgrip or replacement grips) their rackets between sets when watching pro matches. Overgrips should be changed once a month for recreational players, and replacement grips should be changed every other month. This popular replacement grip has a very cushiony and comfortable feel to it. Try this well-known overgrip for a quick change to refresh your racquet. Overgrips will need to be replaced twice as often as replacement grips, but replacement grips will cost twice as much.
10. Final Thoughts
One of the first things you’ll learn as a beginner is the various tennis grips. Your instructor may offer some popular grips that will most likely suit you well. Still, by increasing your understanding of the numerous common grips, you can experiment to determine what works best. Each grip has advantages and disadvantages, so there is no one-size-fits-all grip for all players. If you have any questions, please let us know.